If you’re one of those people who go around acting like everything has always been sunshine and roses in your marriage, and that you never fight with your spouse… then this blog is probably going to be a giant waste of your time. You can keep going on… posting Instagram pics of you and your sweetie holding hands on the beach.
If you do in fact have a marriage free from any sort of strife and turmoil, then you should be writing a blog. It’ll get a million page views.
But for this blog… I’m going to address the rest of us. The people who are married and have, on occasion, had the “opportunity” to have “discussions” (aka fight and argue) with your spouse that leaves both parties feeling like it’s the end of the world.
Let me first start by clarifying something. When I refer to “fighting” with your spouse… I’m not talking about physically. No man… or woman for that matter should ever strike their spouse. If that is going on, then you’ll need a lot more help than my blog.
But if you’re two good people who have had one too many fights, then I want to share with you what I’ve learned about how to properly fight and argue with your spouse. I say “properly” because, for the vast majority of us, it’s going to happen one time or another… or another… and another… so we might as well learn how to do it right.
We’re In A Fight… Now What?
When you fight, it’ll most likely be about the dumbest stuff. The stuff of little to no consequence. You’ll start fighting about something and then it will morph into something else, and before long, you’ll forget how the fight even started. It snowballed out of control because each of you probably defaulted to a laundry list of items that happened sometime in the past that are somehow connected to what just happened now.
So when you feel the conversation going completely away from how the fight initially started, it’s probably because one or both of you has lost your mind. What comes out of your mouth next will most likely be regrettable… so it’s time to stop… NOW.
So… take a hike. Go… and go quickly. Chances are that if either one of you is feeling that angst in your stomach or the tightening of your chest, then nothing is going to get “discussed” or “worked out” in that moment anyway. So go outside and chill out. Take as much time as you need before something trivial turns into a marital world war 3 meltdown.
Gordon B. Hinckley in classic fashion told a story of a man who had reached an advanced age and who was subsequently interviewed by a reporter about how he managed to stay alive for so long. The man replied:
“When my wife and I were married we determined that if we ever got in a quarrel, one of us would leave the house. I attribute my longevity to the fact that I have breathed good fresh air throughout my married life.”
Breathe the fresh air and let the blood flow back to your heart so you can live to fight another day.
Throw Away The Laundry List
The laundry list is the bain of all existing marriages. People allow things to stack up and then they blow. Jeffrey R. Holland said this regarding your laundry list:
“I can’t tell you the number of people I have counseled who, when they are deeply hurt or even just deeply stressed, reach farther and farther into the past to find yet a bigger brick to throw through the window “pain” of their marriage. When something is over and done with, when it has been repented of as fully as it can be repented of, when life has moved on as it should and a lot of other wonderfully good things have happened since then, it is not right to go back and open up some ancient wound that the Son of God Himself died trying to heal.
Let people repent. Let people grow. Believe that people can change and improve. Is that faith? Yes! Is that hope? Yes! Is it charity? Yes! Above all, it is charity, the pure love of Christ. If something is buried in the past, leave it buried. Don’t keep going back with your little sand pail and beach shovel to dig it up, wave it around, and then throw it at someone, saying, “Hey! Do you remember this?”
Well, guess what? That is probably going to result in some ugly morsel being dug up out of your landfill with the reply, “Yeah, I remember it. Do you remember this?”
And soon enough everyone comes out of that exchange dirty and muddy and unhappy and hurt, when what God, our Father in Heaven, pleads for is cleanliness and kindness and happiness and healing.”
It’s Just A Bad Day
Keep in mind that not everything is personal. If your spouse seems a little glum, a little tired, or a little irritated… it doesn’t necessarily mean that it has anything to do with you. Sometimes we take an emotional beating during the work day and we just want to come home and relax.
Maybe we’re exhausted from tending and taking care of rambunxious little kids and we just want to go to sleep. Maybe we’re dealing with some sort of internal stress or anxiety. And maybe it’s just because we’re having one of those bad days.
If you perceive that your spouse is having a bad day, don’t compound it by trying to match his or her mood. If they’re on fire, then you be the water to cool them down. If they’re icy, then give them some warmth.
Love Like You Were Dying
When you fight with your spouse, it’s important to see the big picture. Just because you’re mad at them now, it doesn’t mean you don’t love them. So don’t let your emotions make you think that you don’t want to be with them.
At the end of the day, you love this person. You have a life with this person. And unless they’re the scum of the earth, then you should want to work through anything that comes your way with this person.
Ultimately, life is short, and love is truly all that matters.
Boyd K. Packer was taught an important lesson many years back. He shared that he went home teaching to a little elderly woman. He said:
“I was not married at the time and occasionally without a companion. I would go down and get her some lemon ice cream, and she appreciated it.
One evening, she decided that she wanted to give me some counsel. She told me the story of her life. Marriage in the temple to a wonderful elder, living together and beginning a family. A call to open the mission field in one of the continents of the world, a happy mission, returned back to the little town and entering in life’s pursuit.
Then she focused in on a Monday morning. A blue dreary wash day, gray and cloudy outside and in. Cross children, a little irritation, a poor meal, and finally an innocent remark by one, snapped up by the other, and soon husband and wife, were speaking crossly and critically to one another.
As he left for work she said, I just had to follow him to the gate. And call out one last biting and spiteful remark after him.
And then as the tears came, she told me of an accident that day… and he didn’t return from work.
For 50 years she sobbed, “I’ve regretted that the last words he ever heard from my lips was that one last biting spiteful remark.”
It wasn’t worth it for her to get that last word in. To win the argument. To win the fight. This old widow would do anything to have those words back.
Will Carelton summed up this experience in these words:
“Boys flying kites, haul in their wide-winged birds, you can’t do that when you’re flying words. Careful with fire is good advice we know, careful with words is ten times doubly so. Thoughts unexpressed may sometimes fall back dead, but God himself can’t kill them once they’re said.”
How To End The Fight
Be quick to end a fight once you’ve grabbed some fresh air and regained your composure. Don’t drag it on like a little kid who is trying to prove a point. Crack a joke, fake a smile, steal a kiss, smack their booty, give a bear hug, bring some roses, watch a Netflix show, or wrestle the other person to the ground. Restore laughter and humor as soon as you possibly can and forget the rest.
And when it happens again… as it probably will, you will know just what to do in order to restore love at home and minimize the struggle.